Caring for Storm-Damaged Trees

As a result of Hurricane Laura’s winds, many trees in the area have received damage. Safety is very important when dealing with trees in the aftermath of a storm. Limbs may be significantly weakened and may fall without warning. Now is the time to tend to those affected trees to mitigate additional losses down the road. Unfortunately, some damage cannot be overcome, but with careful pruning many trees can be restored over time to their previous beauty. It is important not to make hasty decisions regarding tree care. Instead, consult with a professional, especially in the case of damaged limbs high up in mature trees.

Tree limbs that have broken need to be removed. As a home owner, you can take care of the low hanging ones yourself with proper cuts. It is important that these are removed properly in order for the tree to heal itself, preventing insect and disease entry. The broken portion can be removed, then the remainder of the limb needs to be trimmed back to the branch collar, the raised area around where the branch joins the trunk. Pruning at this point allows the tree to callous over the wound. When you are trimming branches, especially heavier branches, it is helpful to make a small cut in the bottom of the limb so that when it comes down it doesn’t tear the bark down the trunk as it falls.

After pruning the tree, it may look unbalanced but don’t overprune! The tree will surprise you with its ability to recover its appearance. Another mistake to avoid is cutting back all of the branches of a damaged tree to stubs. This practice leads to the growth of weak limbs that are even more likely to break in future storms. Additionally, this practice removes a large number of leaves, which are needed to feed the tree for recovery.

Proper pruning practices and consulting a professional will not have your trees back to their previous beauty overnight. However, given the time and proper care, you can again enjoy the shade and beauty that they previously provided.

For more information contact Randall Mallette, County Agent, at the local LSU AgCenter Extension Office 318-357-2224.

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